Catching the P-11 Bus: My Daily Nightmare

Kabir Vega Castellanos

The line for the P-11 bus in Vedado.
The line for the P-11 bus in Vedado.

HAVANA TIMES — In order to travel from Alamar to Vedado and attend my English class, I am forced to go through a diabolical daily routine I have already given a name to: “the battle over the P-11 bus.”

The line of people waiting at the bus stop is overwhelmingly long, and when the much-awaited vehicle arrives, those at the back step to the side in a barefaced attempt to cut in line. People can no longer accurately complain about young people. Unfortunately, they have to complain about the Cuban people as a whole.

Everyone wrestles to get inside the bus: from corpulent men to frail old people to the physically challenged (who fight for a seat, even though these are already designated to them).

Most of the time the driver, not in the mood to deal with the rowdy crowd, shuts the door and drives off with a bundle of people holding on to the outside of the bus. Those left behind protest in vain. The line has been broken irreparably, and, when the next bus arrives, the struggle to get inside will be an even worse with everyone looking after themselves.

When the line of people waiting at the stop reserved for seated passengers is so disastrous, the bus will often arrive at the stop for standing passengers already full. This completely defeats the purpose of a stop originally designed for those who are in a hurry and are unwilling to wait for an empty bus. As a result of this, people often don’t even know where it is best to wait for the bus.

In an attempt to improve this situation some, the government has placed inspectors at bus stops, but there aren’t enough of them to contain the chaos. At rush hour (which begins at around three in the afternoon), people are crazy to get home. Even inside the bus, they are worried they will miss their stop and they shove and mistreat others to get to the door.

On one occasion, I was on a bus with my parents and, when we reached the door to get off, a woman standing behind us began to shove my mother in order to get off before her. My mother said to her: “Don’t worry, we’re also getting off.” She insisted and kept on pushing so forcefully that my mother asked her: “Lady, why do you need to get off before I do?” The woman replied, almost yelling: “The thing is, I’ve just had an operation.”

You have to see it to believe it. I’ve seen elderly people with walking sticks who start walking normally once they get inside the bus.

I go to my English class Monday to Friday, so I have to go through the P-11 battle ten times a week. I’ve witnessed at least six commotions and fights over people trying to cut in line, where disrespect is the least serious phenomenon.
Sadly, I am getting used to it.

5 thoughts on “Catching the P-11 Bus: My Daily Nightmare

  • Pretty much describes my experiences on the P-14 from the Parque de Fraternidad out to La Lisa. Fortunately, on the way in, we could always take an outbound to the end of the line, where we’d be assured a seat, then reverse direction. Downtown, though, it was always a struggle. Often, I’d just opt for an “almondron,” but this is more than a day’s salary for most Cubans. OTOH, in provincial cities my experience was often the opposite. In Sancti Spiritus, for example, a young man actually got up from his seat and insisted I sit there. He was so insistant, that I did. Fortunately, a short time later a truly ancient woman entered the bus, and I gave my seat to her. Generally, folks are more polite in the provincial cities and towns. Also, the mix of transport is more eclectic (e.g. horse-drawn carts which ply certain provincial routes) Then again, the situation with public transportation is far more desperate in Havana. Even though Cuba purchased a new fleet of Chinese Yutong buses about six years ago, not enough replacement parts were purchased, resulting in taking many of the Yutongs out of service.

  • On my first trip to Cuba, the Cuban tour guides who lead the bus full of Canadian tourists specifically pointed out that Cuban buses were not for foreign tourists and under no circumstances should we ever attempt to get on one.

    I went back another time and travelled on my own, not in a tour group. I stayed at a Casa particular and took cooperativa taxis. But I did not ride a bus.

  • Do you think any of the misled tourists on a “People to People” guided tour will be allowed to experience this example of Cuban governmental efficiency? Why would anyone desire to witness the human misery of the Workers Paradise? Go somewhere else for your vacation and don’t spend you dollars supporting the Government that has subjected its citizens to four generations of misery. This is not the fault of the US Sanctions.

  • I will never complain about the TTC (Toronto transit) again.

    You have my sympathy, Kabir.

  • Once and only once, I caught the P6 on calle Infanta near San Lazaro at rush hour in Havana. I stand over 6 feet and weigh more than 215 pounds and I got pushed around inside one of those extension buses like a rag doll. I can only imagine what an elderly person must deal with. I also dared to board the P400 coming back from Playa Azul to Havana when it is full of people who just spent all day at the beaches drinking and partying. That was an adventure as well. The difference for me was that I had a choice when I boarded those buses. I had the money in my wallet to take a ‘555’ or private taxi but for the sake of the experience chose to immerse myself among the masses. Most Cubans don’t have that choice and must endure this public transportation nightmare all the time.

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